O’Malley takes on Mayo: five galleries, one vision
Niamh O’Malley has taken on an ambitious project that amounts to five exhibitions of her recent work in venues across Co Mayo
But in a quarry, the “planes” are constantly being remade, a process that concludes only when the usable stone is exhausted. The allusion is painting and other image-making processes, to quarrying images and creating picture planes, all the while leaving the canvas blank, so to speak.
Flag (2008), at Ballina Arts Centre, is another picture plane: a flat graphic design. But it declines to stay flat or still and is a creature of the elements, folding and fluttering in the breeze.
Bridge (2009), at the same venue, suggests a continuity that is, in fact, invented.
The flat, negotiable surface of the bridge (the huge Humber suspension bridge in Yorkshire) is a contrivance, underpinned by the busy structures above and below, which we see from many angles. O’Malley implicitly compares the seamless surface of the bridge to an image as a construction.
Island (2010), at the Linenhall Arts Centre, Castlebar, documents the ancient pilgrimage site of Station Island on Lough Derg in Co Donegal. Filmed out of season, with the island deserted, it is a slow, hypnotic work, shot in dark black-and-white and austerely beautiful. The camera tracks quietly, resolutely, across the cold island landscape, built and natural, rhythmically interrupted by blank, black expanses.
The Spartan ritual of pilgrimage is evoked. The iconographic pilgrims’ island is juxtaposed with the “reality” of a symbolically de-sanctified site. Perhaps what is missing are the pilgrims, evoked in the interludes of deep black nothingness. With the Mayo project, O’Malley has proposed another, artistic pilgrimage.
Niamh O’Malley: The Mayo Art Collaborative. Five linked solo shows at Áras Inis Glauire, Belmullet; Ballina Arts Centre, Barrett Street, Ballina; Ballinglen Arts Foundation, Ballycastle; Custom House Gallery, The Quay, Westport; Linenhall Arts Centre, Castlebar September 1-29. There is a free bus tour on Saturday September 14, starting from the Linenhall in Castlebar at 11.45am and returning at 7pm. Book on 094-9023733